Yesterday marks the end of Chinese New Year, so it’s almost back to the normal flow of meals. Starting with something less Asian. 🙂 I think pasta bake dishes are one of those forgiving dishes or more like, you can just bake anything with it and it will turn out edible. It is very homey, comforting and the portions are easily catered to family size. This idea came about because I had an aubergine in the fridge that’s quite substantial in size. I didn’t want to do a conventional alla norma cause I wanted to use up the entire aubergine so why not just make a baked alla norma instead?
I also purchased a block of Monterey Jack cheese recently just to try out its flavour and had half a block left. What better way to use up cheese than to put it in a cheesy baked dish.
I’ll admit I was skeptical, but you know what? The dish turned out AWESOME! Which is why I conclude that you can’t fail with pasta baked dishes. The Monterey Jack was also a nice change from the usual cheddar or mozzarella because it has that stretch and melty factor but it doesn’t melt into a liquid mess like most mozzarella blocks here and it taste tangy like a cheddar but not as salty. I might dare to call it my current favourite cheese right now. I didn’t use parmesan for this baked dish because although it gives a nice crust, it doesn’t melt as nice as other cheeses.
This dish was good for several meals. Hearty and stretching the buck. Now that’s a win-win.
Alla Norma Bake
- About 3 cups cooked Fusilli pasta or any short pasta of your choice
- 3 rashers of bacon sliced (optional)
- 4 garlic cloves chopped
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 1 medium sized aubergine cut thick slices
- 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese or use cheddar or mozzarella
- Olive oil
- black pepper
- chopped parsley for garnish
- Slice your aubergines into thick slices. Salt them on both sides. Place in a colander for 1/2 hour to draw out the moisture.
- Boil your pasta accordingly. Drain and set aside.
- Pre-heat your oven. Using paper towels, pat dry the aubergines and cut into cubes or smaller slices. Heat olive oil in a deep pan and fry the aubergines till they colour on the sides. Dish it out.
- Fry the bacon slices in the same pan but not till they're super crisp, add in the chopped garlic and fry till fragrant. Tip in all the cooked pasta. Toss everything together with 1 cup of the marinara sauce and season with salt and pepper.
- Tip the pasta into a baking dish. Top with the remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle cheese all over the top.
- Bake in the hot oven. If you have the top grill setting, turn it on after the cheese has melted to give it that gratinated effect.
- Garnish with chopped parsley.